Arkansas’ November unemployment rises to 3.7% as labor pool loses over 6,000 workers

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 282 views 

Arkansas’ jobless rate edged up to 3.7% in November as the state’s civilian labor force decline by more than 6,000 as fewer workers sought gainful employment ahead of the holiday season, according to new data produced Friday (Dec. 22) by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The state’s workforce situation moved Arkansas’ jobless rate closer to the nation’s unchanged unemployment rate of 4.1% in November, when U.S. payrolls increased by 228,000 workers. Month-to-month, Arkansas’ civilian labor force declined by 6,248, a result of 6,784 fewer employed and 536 more unemployed Arkansans.

“The unemployment rate in Arkansas rose slightly in November, brought on by a decline in employment and the size of the civilian labor force,” said state BLS Program Operations Manager Susan Price. “Compared to November 2016, there are currently 36,308 more employed in the state.”

According to BLS data, unemployment rates were lower in November in eight states, higher in two states, and stable in 40 states and the District of Columbia. Twenty-three states had jobless rate decreases from a year earlier, two states had increases, and 25 states and the District of Columbia had little or no change. The national unemployment rate was unchanged from October at 4.1%, but five percentage points lower than in November.

Nonfarm payroll jobs in Arkansas declined 1,800 in November to total 1,263,000. Three major industry sectors posted losses, while six increased and two were unchanged. Employment in leisure and hospitality dropped 3,800. A majority of the decline occurred in food services with 2,8000 dropping off payrolls, which is largely attributed to reported staff reductions and closures at full service restaurants, state workforce officials said.

Jobs in construction decreased 1,000, a typical seasonal loss. Meanwhile, trade, transportation, and utilities added 2,100 jobs. About 2,000 of those new hires came in the retail trade as stores began temporary hiring for the holiday shopping season, Arkansas Department of Workforce Service officials noted. The trade, transportation and utilities sector – Arkansas’ largest job sector – now totals 257,000, up 2,100 from 254,900 workers in October but still 2,300above year ago totals.

Jobs in the red-hot education and health services sector rose, which also has seen the largest wage growth in Arkansas, rose by 400 month-to-month to 191,700 in the penultimate month of the year. That total sets another standard sector, which has grown 3.1% in the past 12 months by adding 5,700 new positions.

Arkansas’ manufacturing sector continuing to surprise in 2017 with 100 new job adds, improving to 160,800 workers through November. That tally is still well ahead of year ago totals of 156,000 as the state’s robust nondurable goods sector that produce fast-moving consumer perishables such as cosmetics, cleaning products, food, condiments, fuel, beer, cigarettes, tobacco and medicine has added 4,700 jobs in the past year. The sector saw peak employment more than 20 years ago when employment topped out at 247,300 in February 1995.

As noted, Arkansas’ leisure and hospitality sector was the biggest decliner, dropping by 3,800 jobs from 119,5000 in November as tourist destinations and restaurants experience less traffic as consumers turn their spending focus to Christmas shopping. Still, the 115,7000 jobs in the state’s strong tourism and food service industry is ahead of the 114,1000 hires a year ago.

Hiring in the construction trade declined by 1,000 to 53,100 in November, still well above year ago levels of 50,100. The state’s mining and logging, which includes jobs in the oil and gas industry, remained flat at 6,100 positions in November and the same as year ago levels.

According to BLS data, the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in November. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 64 cents, or 2.5%.

However, new BLS data released Wednesday shows that Arkansas’ personal income increased by only 0.5% in the third quarter, slightly below the national average of 0.7%. That compares with growth of 0.4% in the second quarter, which was revised downward two percentage points due to lower estimates for wage and salary growth.

Overall, Arkansas’ nonfarm personal income growth, a mix of net earnings, property income, and personal current transfer receipts, rose 0.7% compared to a whopping 9.9% decline in farm income. Earnings by place of work rose 0.6%, led by strong wage and salary growth at 1%. Proprietors’ income was down 1.6% due to the farm component. Dividends, interest and rent income and personal current transfer receipts rose by 0.4% and 0.5%, respectively.